Home to the original school that became Duke University, some of the first European settlers moved into this area of the Piedmont. The county was formed in 1779 from now neighboring Guilford County and part of a then larger Rowan County. Randolph County was named for Peyton Randolph, the first president of the Continental Congress.
In 1911, a new county called Piedmont County was proposed, with High Point as its county seat, to be created from Guilford, Davidson, and Randolph counties. Many people appeared at the Guilford County courthouse to oppose the plan, vowing to go to the state legislature to protest. The state legislature voted down the plan in February 1911.
This community was named for its flat main intersection, or level crossroads. Level Cross is the hometown of the Petty racing family, beginning with patriarch Lee Petty and his sons, driver Richard Petty and engine builder Maurice Petty, as well as Richard’s son, driver Kyle Petty, and Kyle’s son, driver Adam Petty, who died in a car racing accident. Level Cross was also the birthplace of Richard’s cousin, crew chief Dale Inman.
Victory Junction Gang Camp
Built and funded by the Petty family and worldwide donations, Victory Junction Gang Camp is a racing-themed camp facility in the Level Cross area for special needs children. The camp holds weekly-themed camps for different disabilities and has dedicated medical and camp staff for every child’s needs during their stay as well as therapeutic activities and much more. Kids come from around the world to attend this camp.
Climax – Goat Lady Dairy
In the small town of Climax, you’ll find Goat Lady Dairy, best know for its award-winning goat cheese and chevres. Named for its founder, who was lovingly called the goat lady (and has since passed away), Goat Lady Dairy holds open houses twice yearly, in the spring and in the fall with music, vendors, and goat cheese tasting. Be sure to bring a cooler with you and stock up on the incredible goat cheese. It freezes well too. If you miss out, you can always catch them at the farmer’s market in Colfax or in some local grocery stores. Even some local restaurants feature Goat Lady Dairy Cheese on their menus. Oh, and you can also make reservations for one of their community dinners.
P.S. Just a few minutes up the road in Liberty, Rising Meadow Farms (3750 Williams Dairy Rd), a working sheep farm, also holds their spring and fall open houses on the same weekends as Goat Lady Dairy. So, you can stop by both–and enjoy a day in the country.
Originally named Liberty Oak, the town was founded in 1809 near the plantation of John Leak. The Liberty Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Liberty is home to the famous Liberty Antiques Festival. The movies Killers Three (1968) and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993) were filmed in Liberty and the surrounding areas.
The Town of Staley, founded in 1889, was named for Col. John Staley, a Confederate officer in the Civil War.
Franklinville’s history dates back to at least the 18th Century when there were Keyauwee and Saponi Native American tribes living along the Sapong River, known now as Deep River. Members of these tribes and settlers crossed Deep River at the well-known Island Ford Crossing.
In 1784, the Earl of Granville granted the land where Franklinville is now located to Jacob Skeen. Christian Morris bought this land in 1801 and built his water-powered grist mill on the river. By 1820, Jesse Franklin was the governor of North Carolina and when Elisha Coffin acquired the land and properties from Christian Morris, the area was named Franklinsville in honor of the governor.
In 1847, the state legislature incorporated the village as a Town, the first mill village government in the state. It was named after former Governor Jesse Franklin of Surry County, a well-known anti-slavery advocate. All of the original stockholders of the mill appear to have been Quakers or abolitionists, and the majority of the inhabitants were Unionists who voted against joining the Confederacy. Under military supervision during the Civil War, the mills made cotton underwear for soldiers. Outside of the mills Franklinville was a center of the Red String, the pro-Union Peace Party, which after 1865 was reborn as the new Republican Party.
Franklinville was incorporated as a town for the first time and was ratified by the State of North Carolina on January 15, 1847. By December 19, 1917, Franklinsville became Franklinville without the “s”. Franklinville has been a manufacturing community since its earliest beginnings in the 1760s. The mechanical power of Deep River as it flows through town sparking the construction of numerous mills and still turns electric generators today. The first cotton factory was started in 1838, triggering the growth of a village where mill workers and their families could live, play, shop, and worship.
Today, the parks and open spaces created by the mill company over a hundred years ago are maintained by the town, and the vanished railroad has become the Deep River Rail-Trail, a hiking and biking greenway and proposed kayak and canoe blueway. The Franklinville Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984
Ramseur was named for Stephen Dodson Ramseur, the youngest Confederate major general of the Civil War.
Millstone Creek Orchards
506 Parks Xroads Church Rd
This community was named for James A. Cole, a local merchant. The Coleridge Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Coleridge was the home of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, the southern most cotton mill built on Deep River. Its construction in 1882 was the final link in the chain of Randolph County’s water-powered textile industries that had begun to be forged in 1836.
The company was organized by H.A. Moffitt, an Asheboro merchant, and Daniel Lambert and James A. Cole, prominent citizens of southeastern Randolph. The original structure was a two-and-one-half-story, wooden building housing 800 spindles and 26 workers. The facilities of the corporation included a wool-carding mill, saw mill, and flour mill.
The surrounding village was known first as Cole’s Ridge and then as Coleridge, after James A. Cole, who in 1904 sold a majority interest in the company to his son-in-law, Dr. Robert L. Caveness. By 1917, it was said that “R. L. Caveness is at the head of practically everything in Coleridge,” and it was under his influence that the brick mill facilities were built.
The village was Randolph County’s first historic district, and has been placed on the National Register or Historic Places. Its 1970 nomination stated that “the chief appeal of this site is as a picturesque example of a riverside mill seen in one of North Carolina’s oldest manufacturing sections.”
Spend an entire weekend here, and you still won’t see all of the pottery shops! In fact, it would take at least a week to see them all–if you visited 15+ shops every day.
Seagrove was named for Edwin G. Seagraves, a railroad official who was responsible for routing a railroad through the area. According to local sources, after a unanimous decision to name the station after Seagraves, the town name resulted from a sign painter running out of space and simply dropping the ‘s’ from the end of the name. Also the painter misspelled Seagraves as Seagrove. The railroad served Seagrove until December 31, 1951. The old train depot later was adapted as a pottery museum.
The name Seagrove refers to the town proper, and includes several other communities that are part of the pottery tradition along and near the “North Carolina Pottery Highway” (NC-705). Due to the high-concentration clay soil, more than 100 pottery shops are located in Seagrove and the neighboring towns of Star, Whynot, Erect, Westmoore, Happy Hollow, and Robbins. Seagrove is also home to the North Carolina Pottery Center, which was established on November 7, 1998, and has since received visitors from across the continent and around the world.
Construction of Plank Road began in 1849. Plank Road extended 129 miles and was made of planks 8 feet long, 9 to 16 inches wide, and 3 inches thick. The road carried horseback riders, wagons, and stagecoaches. A toll of one cent per mile was charged for a wagon and four horses. Toll revenues declined after construction of the railroad, and by 1862 much of Plank Road was abandoned. Parts of North Carolina Highway 705 follow the Plank Road route.
Seagrove’s pottery tradition dates back to the 18th century before the American Revolution. Many of the first Seagrove potters were Scots-Irish immigrants. They primarily produced functional, glazed earthenware. Due to the high quality of the local clay and transportation access for traders, Seagrove became known for its pottery.
The popularity of Seagrove pottery fell off during the Industrial Revolution and the advent of modern food preparation. For a time whisky jugs were a successful source of income, but the beverage was outlawed. The potteries continued their decline in the early 20th century.
In 1915, Jacques and Juliana Busbee of Raleigh made an effort to revive the industry. Over several decades, the Busbee’s hired Seagrove potters JH Owen, Charlie Teague, and Ben Owen to make signature wares under the name Jugtown Pottery to sell in the Village Shop, which they opened in Greenwich Village, NYC, and later from the Jugtown shop in Seagrove.
Around 1920, a new market developed as the pottery became popular with tourists driving through on their way to Pinehurst, Southern Pines, or Florida buying inexpensive souvenirs. The new tourist industry marked a general change from utilitarian pottery to more decorative ware. After another decline from the 1950s through 1970s, due to the road being replaced with the Interstate, a renewed interest in traditional pottery developed. In 1982, a group of local potters founded the North Carolina Museum of Traditional Pottery and organized the Seagrove Pottery Festival, an annual event held each year the weekend before Thanksgiving in the old bean cannery.
The Cole, Auman, Owen, Teague, and Albright families are eighth- and ninth-generation potters in Seagrove who continue this tradition. Some of the oldest, historic pottery locations still in operation include the “Original” Owens Pottery founded in 1895 and Jugtown Pottery founded in 1921. Jugtown Pottery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Asheboro was named after Samuel Ashe, the ninth governor of North Carolina (1795–1798), and became the county seat of Randolph County in 1796. It was a small village in the 1800s, with a population of less than 200 through the Civil War; its main function was housing the county courthouse, and the town was most active when court was in session. Asheboro’s population only began to grow significantly following its connection to railroads: the High Point, Randleman, Asheboro, and Southern Railroad first served the city in 1889, followed by the Montgomery Railroad in 1896.
Asheboro emerged as a textile production center in the 20th century with the opening of the Acme Hosiery Mills in 1909. After World War II, the city’s manufacturing sector grew to include batteries, wires, and food products. The city’s main tourist attraction, the North Carolina Zoo, opened in 1974.
Asheboro suffered from an economic downturn in the 2000s due to a decline in its traditional manufacturing industries amid increasing competition from overseas; the national news program 60 Minutes described it as a “dying town” in 2012.
Asheboro is known as the center point of NC. Although Asheboro is located in the gently rolling Piedmont plateau region of central North Carolina, far to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, the town and surrounding area are surprisingly hilly. The town lies within the Uwharrie Mountains, an ancient series of ridges and monadnocks which have been worn down by erosion to high hills. As such, Asheboro gives the impression of being in a more mountainous area than it actually is.
The North Carolina Zoo is the largest and finest zoo in the state, with closest rival being the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Plan to spend a full day here between the North American and African exhibits, including plains where elephants, rhinocerous, and herd animals roam free. The zoo also has giraffes, zebra, lions, tigers, bears, polar bears, and much more.
North Carolina Aviation Museum & Hall of Fame
Visitors will have the opportunity to see displays of old planes, military artifacts of war events, and civilian memorabilia. This display has its different unique story to tell, dating back to how flight started. Visitors can feel what it feels like to be a pilot in an aircraft as a Boeing 727 is available. Since 1966, the Museum organizes an annual fly-in event on the second Saturday of June. Visitors can see facilities for free like the aircraft displays, Ham radio demonstrations, free mini aeroplane flights for children, aircraft displays, and a racing exhibition. The military face painting is something worth doing when you visit.
The Sunset Theatre is a classically restored theatre in the heart of downtown Asheboro, and surrounded by a multitude of shops, antique stores, and local eateries.
Pisgah Covered Bridge
Randolph county is home to one of the last two remaining original covered bridges in the state. The wooden structure, originally built in 1910 for the cost of $40, is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places and carried horse and wagon travelers of the day. The bridge can be seen close to the Uwharrie National Forest and crosses 54 feet over the West Fork Branch of the Little River. In 2003, the Pisgah bridge was destroyed by a flood but was put back in place using 90% of materials retrieved from the disaster. It’s a quiet spot with picnic tables and trails, and you can even picnic on the rocks in the river.
Uwharrie National Forest
American Classic Motorcycle Museum
The American Classic Motorcycle Museum is small, but inside it has a comprehensive arrangement of information on the history of motorcycles and old original bikes. The museum houses the private collection of antique Harley Davidson, and it is one of the most extensive collections in the country. It’s an ideal place for motorcycle lovers. Admission is free.
Richland Creek Canopy Tours
Cox mountain is popularly known for its trails amongst hiking lovers with trails through creeks and woods. Visitors will have to cross small lakes and rivers on wooden bridges that are rope-tied.
Home of NASCAR’s Petty family and the Victory Junction Gang Camp, Randleman was also the location of the Richard Petty Museum from 2003–2014. The town was originally named Dicks for Rick Dicks, who built a mill there around 1830. Later, a cotton mill was built in Dicks, and the town was renamed Union Factory. Randleman was the next name chosen, in 1866 for John B. Randleman, a mill owner. The town was incorporated as Randleman Mills in 1880; the name was later changed to Randleman. According to The Town of Randleman website, Randleman was named after John Banner Randleman in 1880:
“In 1880 the General Assembly at Raleigh granted paper of incorporation to the City of Randleman, named for John Banner Randleman. When the town of Randleman Mills was created and incorporated a town. John H. Ferree, James E. Walker, James O. Pickard, Romulus R. Ross, Addison W. Vickery, created a body politic under the style of Commissioners of the Town of Randleman Mills.”
The small town thrived, and by 1890 was the largest town in Randolph County. The coming of the High Point, Randleman, Asheboro, and Southern Railroad in 1889 had greatly facilitated the growth, because roads were not good, and the railroad assured the town of quicker freight handling. During this time, three more mills came popped up: Randleman Hosiery Mills, Plaidville Mills, and Marie Antoinette.
The High Point, Randleman, Asheboro, and Southern Railroad was completed in July 1889. In its early days, the influence of this railroad played an important part in the development of Randleman and other sections of Randolph County.
Randleman’s feature event is the annual NASCAR Days Festival, held each fall.
The community was named after Trinity College, which later became Duke University. Trinity College started as Brown’s Schoolhouse, a private subscription school founded in 1838. The school was organized by a group of Methodists and Quakers, and was officially started by Hezekiah Leigh, widely recognized as the founder of Randolph-Macon College. In 1841, North Carolina issued a charter for Union Institute Academy. The school took the name Trinity College in 1859, and in 1892, the college moved to Durham.
Sealy Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of bedding products with sales of $1.2 billion in 2003, is headquartered in Trinity. Trinity is also home to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Bobby Labonte, Brian Vickers, and Kyle Petty. The former “World’s Longest Hot Wheels Track” was built at the Kyle Petty Farm in Trinity on May 9, 1999.
For wine lovers, Zimmerman Vineyards (1428 Tabernacle Church Rd) is located on 140 acres at the foot of Mt. Shepherd. They offer weekend tours and wine tastings.
The Neal John Deere Tractor and Industrial Museum
5507 Snyder Country Rd
Next stop… Richmond County!